CRAFTON, SMITH HIGHLIGHT ‘FAST FIVE’ STORYLINES FOR SATURDAY’S NCTS SPEEDYCASH.COM 250
The NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series continues its “Texas Two Step” as the two-race swing through the Lone Star State culminates with Saturday’s SPEEDYCASH.COM 250 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The series competitors will shift from last week’s twisting, 3.41-mile Circuit of The Americas permanent road course in Austin to the ultra-fast, high-banked 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth for the fourth race of the season.
The one-day show opens Saturday with a 30-minute practice beginning at 9:35 a.m. CT followed by qualifying at 10:05 a.m. Once the field is set, the SPEEDYCASH.COM 250 will get underway at 3:30 p.m. (TV: FS1, Radio: MRN, SiriusXM).
The SPEEDYCASH.COM 250 is the companion event for Sunday’s PPG 375 (11:15 a.m., TV: NBC & Peacock. Radio: SiriusXM, INDYCAR Radio Network, 95.9 The Ranch-local).
Here’s a look at the “Fast Five” storylines for the SPEEDYCASH.COM 250 NCTS race:
- ThorSport Racing’s Matt Crafton will extend his record for most career starts of any series that has competed at Texas Motor Speedway in Saturday’s SPEEDYCASH.COM 250. The 47-year-old Crafton, in his 23rd full NCTS season, will be making his 43rd TMS start, which dwarfs the career leaders in NASCAR’s other two national series and INDYCAR.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick owns the NASCAR Cup Series mark with 38 while Jeremy Clements of Jeremy Clements Racing holds the top spot in the Xfinity Series at 28. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, the INDYCAR career leader, will be making his 25th start in Sunday’s PPG 375.
Crafton is a two-time winner at Texas and has the track records for career top-five finishes (17) and top 10s (30). He also ranks second for career laps led at 444.
- Defending series champion Zane Smith of Front Row Motorsports is producing a carbon copy of his run to last year’s title and is hopeful the script finishes out the same way.
A year ago, he won the season-opening race at Daytona and followed with his second victory of the season at Circuit of The Americas. He has done so again, winning last week at COTA by 5.451 seconds over runner-up Kyle Busch after a season-opening win at Daytona.
Smith, however, does find himself in a much better position in the NCTS points standings at this stage. Smith, who was 31 points behind leader Chandler Smith last season, exited COTA with the top spot, three ahead of ThorSport Racing’s Ty Majeski.
He is hopeful that he doesn’t mirror his 2022 result at Texas Motor Speedway, where he finished six laps down and in 32nd place.
- ThorSport Racing’s driving trio of Ben Rhodes, Majeski and Crafton have combined for one win through the first four races of the season, but there is no need to fret for the organization.
ThorSport Racing currently holds three of the top six positions in the NCTS points standings heading into the SPEEDYCASH.COM 250. Majeski is two points behind Smith in second, Rhodes is 18 back in third and Crafton is 38 out in sixth.
Consistency has been the key as the group has combined for eight top-10 finishes, including four among the top five. Majeski and Rhodes have registered top 10s in three of the four races, including both having a pair of top-five performances, while Crafton has two top-10 finishes.
- The NCTS may want to issue directions to Victory Lane leading into the SPEEDYCASH.COM 250.
Of the expected 36 drivers in the field, only two current fulltime NCTS drivers have recorded victories in the series’ 26-year history at Texas Motor Speedway. Crafton is one as expected, with the ThorSport Racing veteran winning at Texas in 2014 and again the next season.
Joining Crafton is Stewart Friesen of Halmar Friesen Racing. Friesen earned his victory last season in overtime, marking his first win in 53 races dating to November of 2019.
- The most productive drivers in the last 10 races at Texas Motor Speedway include some of the usual suspects.
Crafton leads the way with nine top-10 finishes, including four among the top five. Grant Enfinger of GMS Racing has seven top-10 finishes, including five top-five efforts. Friesen has four top-five finishes and five top 10s overall. Rhodes has four top-10 finishes, including two among the top 10.
Interestingly, Friesen is the only one among the group with a win during the timeframe.
Texas Motor Speedway’s 2023 events schedule consists of everything from the April 1-2 NTT INDYCAR SERIES/NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series doubleheader and the Sept. 23-24 NASCAR Playoffs weekend, car shows and competitions and the Ducks Unlimited Expo, the four-day Hwy 30 Music Fest and Bandas y Trocas Hispanic concert and truck show, and then wrapping up the year with the family-favorite and speedway tradition Gift of Lights holiday light show.
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